Along with exercise and a healthy diet, sleep is an important key to your overall health.

With the holidays behind us, many people start to refocus on their health goals. They use this time to make resolutions to start exercising and eating healthy. Exercise and diet go hand in hand because you won’t get the results you’re looking for from exercise if you don’t also have a well-balanced diet.

But there’s a third component to healthy living that’s routinely forgotten and just as important: sleep. Sleep plays an important role in both your mental and physical health.

Those recommended seven to eight hours of sleep, boost your body’s ability to repair and grow muscles. In addition, growth hormone is produced when you sleep and protein synthesis occurs in the muscles.  A good, regular sleep routine also helps you maintain a healthy metabolism.

People spend 33 percent of their lives sleeping, but nobody really thinks about sleep until they are having a problem with it. Sleep deprivation side effects are numerous and far-reaching. Lack of sleep contributes to stress, anxiety, lack of concentration, depression and can weaken your immune system, causing more illnesses throughout the year.

When people come to the pharmacy to ask about sleep recommendations, the first thing I do is suggest healthy sleeping habits. Over stimulation — like being on your phone, computer or watching TV— is one of the major causes of people having trouble sleeping. You want your bedroom to be a relaxing environment free from all the things listed above.

For people who “can’t turn their mind off,” I recommend making a simple to-do list so that you don’t have to stay awake trying to remember the tasks for the next day. Also, taking a bath or reading a book can help you relax before bed.

The supplement melatonin is usually the first over-the-counter medicine I recommend when patients are looking for a sleep aid. There are a lot of different sleep aids on the market that will work to help you sleep, but melatonin is naturally produced in the body. It’s a hormone that is produced in the pineal gland in the brain, and its release is controlled by our body clock. Melatonin production can be affected by light exposure. This is another reason to keep your electronic devices off and your bedroom dark.

The supplement creates the desired sleep affect, usually within 20 or 30 minutes, so it’s best to take melatonin right before bedtime. To get the maximum effect and avoid over stimulation, it’s best to turn off your phone and TV and settle in for a relaxing sleep.

There are prescription medications, but usually mild sleep conditions can be remedied with healthy sleep habits. Always start with sleep habits, and then add an OTC supplement before moving on to prescription medications.

Patients should always consult their primary care physician and be cautious when using prescription sleep aids. If you don’t get a full night’s sleep while taking them, the drowsy effects can linger, impairing driving and decision-making.

So remember, for the best night’s sleep — turn off your TV, turn off your mind. Make your room a dark, comfortable, relaxing environment and enjoy some much-needed rest.